Republicans Continue To Fixate On Sotomayor’s Ethnicity

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell, NEWS JUNKIE POST
Capitol Hill Contributor

Republicans are paving the way for an easy confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the next Supreme Court Justice, but before she reaches the bench, she sat through another day of fielded questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After three and a half long days of sitting at the judiciary committee hearings, Judge Sotomayor maintained a calm, steady demeanor, despite questions about her character, her personal beliefs, and judicial values. Her mother and stepfather sat behind her and patiently listened to every word.

Finally, some words of assurance came from the top Republican on the Committee, Jeff Sessions (R-AL). He anticipated a quick Senate confirmation.

“I will not support, and I don’t think any member on this side will support a filibuster or any attempt to block your nomination,” Sessions said. “I look forward to you getting that vote before we recess in August.”

His comment comes after another Republican who has been critical of Sotomayor offered a concessional assessment. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) admitted that she has not been an activist judge. “I agree that your judicial record strikes me as pretty much in the mainstream,” he said.

Though it is nearly certain Judge Sotomayor will be the next Supreme Court Justice, it did not stop Republicans from quizzing her on identity politics.

“As a judge, I don’t in any way embrace it with respect to judging. As a person I believe that certain groups have and should express their views on whatever social issues may be out there,” Sotomayor said.

The question of identity politics extended to the Ricci case — the case of white New Haven firefighters who sued the city for discrimination. The Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Second Circuit Court in which Sotomayor sat.

Senator Sessions spent a good part of his allotted 60 minutes to questioning Sotomyaor on race. Sessions himself was blocked from obtaining a federal judgeship because of racist comments including telling a black employee that he better watch how he talks to white people.

Sessions described the Supreme Court’s decision to apply “strict scrutiny” in racial preferences. He asked Sotomayor if she retreated from an opportunity by deciding against Ricci.

“No I didn’t lack courage,” Sotomayor said adding that her court followed precedent and made the decision based on the confines of the law.

Frank Ricci testified to before the Judiciary Committee and said that racial preferences are discriminatory.

Sotomayor was asked numerous rounds of questions on the Second Amendment. Republicans fear that her appointment to the court will bring a ban on guns. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said the right to own a gun “hangs in the balance” with Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

“I can assure your constituents that I have a completely open mind,” Sotomayor responded.

Sotomayor was also quizzed on social issues including abortion and same sex marriage. She declined to give any indication of her personal beliefs or how her judicial rulings might look.

Sotomayor could be appointed to Associate Justice by August, in time for the Supreme Court to hear its first case in September.

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